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An energy company has been stopped from fracking in Lancashire because of the levels of radioactive waste that would be produced from its fracking.

Energy company Cuadrilla has withdrawn applications for permits to frack in the region after Environment Agency (EA) said it would not grant a radioactive substances permit until it was sure the water will be disposed of safely.

Unbeknownst to many members of the public, fracking produces large volumes of water contaminated with radioactive waste.

Fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – is a technique in which water and chemicals are pumped into shale rock at high pressure to extract gas.

But Cuadrilla is not the only company which has come under fire over the level of radioactive substances found in its fracking site.

A study published by Duke University found that water discharged from the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility into Blacklick Creek – which feeds into a water source for western Pennsylvania cities – contained toxic levels of chloride and bromide, combined with strontium, radium, oxygen, and hydrogen isotopic compositions, which were present in the Marcellus shale wastewaters.

Its study also found that fracking resulted in dangerous levels of radioactive waste in tap water.

A separate study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology found that fracking wastewater sites across the country could potentially be contaminated with toxic levels of nuclear waste that would affect anyone living in the immediate vicinity.

Professor Avner Vengosh, one of the authors of the study, said: “If people don’t live in those places, it’s not an immediate threat in terms of radioactivity. However, there’s the danger of slow bio-accumulation of the radium. It will eventually end up in fish and that is a biological danger.”

In addition, the study found that the water contained higher levels of salinity from the shale brine. Shale brine is also associated with high levels of bromide, which is not toxic by itself but turns into carcinogenic trihalomethanes during purification treatment.

In a similar report published earlier this year, Vengosh reported that drinking water within a kilometre of fracking sites contained a toxic soup of methane, ethane and propane.

Scientists have already proposed to dump the nuclear waste produced by fracking, by drilling it further into the ground.

Leonid Germanovich, a physicist and civil and environmental engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the scientists who have proposed to mix nuclear waste with other heavy materials, and inject it a few miles below the Earth’s surface into drilled holes.

The key is that, unlike fluids used in most hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the nuclear slurry would be heavier than the rock in which it is injected.

At the moment the idea is “theoretical” but it is one that is still being considered.

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